If you’ve paid attention to the news in the last few years you might have heard that Millennials coming out of college are having a hard time finding jobs. Many of them have moved back in with their parents.

I don’t think this is a millennial problem – I think it’s an American problem. I know and have known people of all ages who are unemployed or underemployed. I was unemployed and then underemployed about 15 years ago but that was during the dot come bubble burst. And let’s not even talk about the numerous layoffs that happen when you’re in the IT industry. I have a friend with a marketing degree who’s been out of work for about 18 months and she’s a boomer. I heard recently that the shelf life of a skill set is much shorter than it used to be.

Seats


So how can we fix this? How can we be gainfully employed, or make a good living in today’s world? Reinvention. There are various ways to do that but many of them may not be doable for everyone:

  • Go back to school and get a different degree or training
  • Find a job in another town and move
  • Change industries or become an entrepreneur


Very easy to say and very hard to do, especially if you have a house to sell or kids in school. I’ve had my resume perpetually on jobs boards for years specifically saying that I cannot relocate (due to a house with an underwater mortgage) and will only entertain permanent, full-time opportunities and yet I get all sorts of inquires about 3-6 month contract jobs on the other side of the country. Hey recruiters – pay attention! I can’t move. Especially not for a temporary job.

This brings me to the operative word in the title of this screed – reinvention. If you can’t do what you want or are trained and experienced to do, be like Madonna, the pop star, and reinvent yourself, but make sure you wear a more conventional wardrobe than hers. How? By creating your own gig.

Chances are against most of us that our new gig will be the next big startup that Google will want to purchase. It may be something as simple as bringing in a little more cash – like a lemonade stand. Ok, I’m kidding about the lemonade stand, but you get the idea hopefully. Many successful businesses started out as side gigs. And many worker bees were able to parlay those side gigs into a successful entrepreneurial venture. Some were even able to quit their day jobs. Some became self-made millionaires and moved to Puerto Rico for the tax advantages.

Candy


In order to do this you have to get off your butt and do the work. Hard work. Creative work. I suggested to my out-of-work marketer friend that she create business cards with her skill set printed on them, buy a couple of bags of non-melting candy (we live in Arizona after all), put a few of the candies in a clear, colored, cellophane wrapper closed at the top with a streamer ribbon, punch a hole in her business card and attach to said streamer ribbon, and walk from business to business downtown where there are law firms and other companies in old re-purposed houses and just connect. She should introduce herself to the admin or secretary, drop off the candy, and let them know that she’s available if they ever need any marketing done. How hard is that? Plenty. It’s like cold calling on steroids, but face to face. But it’s creative, don’t you think?

Fifteen years ago during that aforementioned layoff, I got all dressed up one day in business attire, printed a bunch of copies of my resume, created a very professionally printed sign that stated that I was a laid off software engineer looking for my next position, and stood on a busy street corner passing out resumes. I only had one taker, though. I think people thought I was asking for money, which I wasn’t. Later when I mentioned my escapade on the corner to my neighbor, she said that she wished I would have told her I was going to do that because she was well connected and would have gotten a film crew from one of the local news stations to film it and run it on the 10 pm news. Oh well.

Suit


But see what I’m getting at here? Being creative and thinking outside of the box. Fifteen years ago I also drove around industrial parks, wrote down the names of companies on the buildings, went online, to see if they had a company website (this was before everyone, and I really do mean everyone, had a company website), and then looked at the open positions they were currently advertising. And yes I did get a job that way. And then got laid off from that company 2½ years later when they moved their operation out of town. Sigh.

You’re getting the picture though. Sure, I was trying to find jobs in my field, but that’s not so easy these days. There’s more people on the planet and more competition. People who can do things better than you, faster than you, have more recent skills than you, or are cheaper than you. So it’s time to become the queen, or king, of reinvention.

In my case, I’m doing a lot of training in a totally different field. It’s a side gig that may, one day, turn into a full-time gig and/or supplement my retirement when and if I ever retire. I love my current field of IT. I got into it because I loved it, not because I thought there was a future in it, which there was many years ago when I got my undergrad degree. A great future. But I’ve found over the years that a career is like a bell curve. You start at the bottom on one side, rise to the top of the bell at the height of your career, and due to layoffs, changing technologies, cheaper labor, retirement or whatever, you find yourself sliding down the other side of the bell. The bell curve resonates with many things in life. But it doesn’t have to define us.

You may be thinking that new or additional training would be nice but you can’t afford it monetarily. That’s what’s so great about YouTube and the internet. You can find all sorts of training, free training, on YouTube. And while you’re learning on YouTube, make sure to stay away from any time sucking cat videos. Save those for a break.

Bell


I interview people on my podcast who were worker bees and are now entrepreneurs. Most had a passion or a dream that they wanted to fulfill and share. Some of them wanted to break out of the 8-5 rat race. Others had a hobby that they were able to turn into their side gig. The theme with all of them though, is that if you work hard, you can make most of your practical dreams come true.

Here’s a road map to get you started on becoming the queen, or king, of reinvention:

  1. Pick up some new skills by attending a conference or seminar, going back to school, watching YouTube videos, or reading a book.
  2. To gain experience with those new skills in order to truthfully add those skills to your resume, volunteer a few hours a month somewhere that could use those skills. For example, if a new skill is facilities management, volunteer at a local community center or chamber of commerce. While you’re there you just might gain some contacts that help lead you to your new career.
  3. If you have a hobby making jewelry, pottery, furniture, etc., find local swap meets/flea markets or art fairs where you can display your work. If there’s a fee associated with the event that’s not currently in your budget, suggest bartering for that fee (e.g., give them some of your art/furniture).
  4. Become a door to door salesman or saleswoman by introducing yourself to your local businesses, selling yourself and your services via a nice sweet bag of candy and an introduction.
  5. If you want to do something else but don’t know what, drive, walk, or ask around and see what other people are doing. There’s so much out there to discover but you have to go out there and look around.
Pottery


Don’t give up on your dreams, regardless if they arise from a fire in your belly or necessity because the world, and today’s job market, are changing. Change with them. A few years ago I read the following saying:

"If you don't ride the waves of change you'll find yourself beneath them"


How very true. Many of us shy away from change. I embrace it. You should too.


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